Today we released the second annual report on household food insecurity in Canada, Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2012, as part of an initiative launched by PROOF to make regular summaries of national population statistics on food insecurity more accessible and available to the public. PROOF is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded research program launched in 2011 to identify effective policy interventions to address household food insecurity.
In 2012, 4 million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, lived in households that struggled to afford the food they needed. The report reveals that despite Canada’s economic recovery, the number of Canadians facing food insecurity – inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints – is not abating. In fact, the problem has persisted or grown in every province and territory since 2005, with 2012 rates in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories reaching their highest observed since Health Canada began monitoring the problem.
The majority (62%) of food insecure households in Canada are working, calling into question the adequacy of existing government programs to compensate for the limited income associated with low waged, part-time, and insecure employment that many Canadian households rely on to feed their families. At the same time, 70% of households reliant on social assistance were food insecure in 2012, documenting the failure of these programs to enable sufficient access to food.
Perhaps most troubling however, are the rates of food insecurity found among Aboriginal and black people in the country. For the first time ever, the prevalence of household food insecurity among black people in Canada is reported, revealing an extreme vulnerability of this ethnic/racial group that is shared only by Aboriginal peoples. In 2012, 28% of households with a black or Aboriginal respondent were food insecure. This is more than double the national average (12.6%).
Not only is it morally reprehensible that nearly 13% of households living in Canada, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, struggle to put food on the table, food insecurity is a serious public health problem. Research in Canada has shown that the experience of hunger leaves an indelible mark on children’s physical and mental health, with greater likelihood of conditions like depression and asthma. Adults in food insecure households also have poorer physical and mental health and higher rates of many chronic conditions, including depression, diabetes and heart disease. Living with the constant stress of trying to make ends meet, running out of food and not being able to adequately feed one’s family saps the opportunity to participate wholly in society.
The harm to adults and children living in food insecure environments is extensive. For a nation with Canada’s affluence and stability, there is no excuse and every opportunity to take effective action – it is critical that the inadequacy of existing policies and approaches be addressed so that all Canadians are assured of the right to enough food to satisfy their basic needs.
For more information on food insecurity in Canada please visit and subscribe to the PROOF site and get a copy of Household food insecurity in Canada 2012.